Annunciation to Mary
The scene of the Annunciation extends across two of the four sides of the capital. On the south side, the archangel Gabriel turns to the left towards Maria, in whose lap lies a spindle. The depiction of Maria with a wool spindle can be explained by an episode found in the aprocryphal gospel of James. In the text, Mary was chosen by the high priest from among eight young women belonging to the house of David to fabricate a curtain for the temple in purple and scarlet that would act as a shrine for the Torah. In this respect it is not surprising that on the west side King David himself is seen with a lyra and is represented, in characteristic fashion, with his legs crossed.
The crowned figure on the north side, which until recently was considered to have represented Joseph or Daniel, could be interpreted, in this context, to be one of the temple priests, judging from an analagous image o a later capital – dating well after 1196 – found on the porch of the cathedral of San Donnino in Fidenza. The latter portrays, in exactly the same way, next to Elizabeth and Mary with a wool spindle, a figure which is identified as a priest by the inscription (MAGI ST[ER].T[E]NPL[I]).
Since the Byzantine era, Mary represented with a wool spindle was a common topos in the representation of the Annunciation and provided an effective stood as an effective typological comparison to the hardship and physical toil of the life of Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Paradise. This interpretation stands to reason by the fact that among the pieces that are preserved today in the Museo Civico d’Arte Antica in Turin, there is a capital depicting the Fall of Man, which without any doubt belongs to the cloister of Aosta.